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Legal hotline: Do’s and don’ts

by Hank Lerner, Esq. on

“Hi, it’s Hank Lerner. I’m returning your call to the PAR legal hotline.”

Thus began a new era at PAR as our in-house legal team began answering the legal hotline. Names and voices may have changed, but the same policies still apply – with a few little tweaks. After several weeks answering calls, I thought it would be a good idea to review a few things that will make your (and our) hotline experience a little smoother.

Members ONLY

The legal hotline is regularly cited as one of PAR’s most appreciated member benefits, but that only works if it’s truly limited to Realtor® members of PAR. We will not answer questions from clients, unlicensed administrative assistants, maintenance staff, non-Realtor® offices or non-member salespersons in Realtor® offices – all of whom have called at various times. Please don’t give out the number or suggest that anyone other than a member use the service.

Stick to the posted hours

The hotline is currently open from 9 to 3 p.m., and our upgraded phone system doesn’t take voicemails outside the posted hours. We anticipate expanding hours later this year, but want to be sure everything is fully up to speed before that happens.

And we ask that you please don’t call or email PAR attorneys directly with your questions. We are committed to returning hotline calls as efficiently as we can, in the order they’re received, and it’s not fair to those who have left messages in the queue if other try to go around the system.

Be clear, but brief

Please give your full first name as it is on your license and/or membership record – not your nickname – and spell it if it’s tricky. Definitely spell out your last name, even if you think it’s easy – we’ve got Realtors® named Smith, Smyth and Smythe. Be sure there’s an area code with your phone number, and it wouldn’t hurt to let us know if it’s an office or cell number.

We’re also asking for a brief description of your question. Not a five-minute story, but something like “buyer and seller have a deposit money dispute” or “need to know if the listing broker can reduce my coop fee at the last minute.” This helps us refresh on a topic before the return call if necessary, or to assign it to an attorney who may have more knowledge in a specific area. Leaving out any of these items may get your call bumped to the bottom of the queue.

Keep your phone nearby

We’ll do our very best to return your call the same day – and definitely by the next workday. Our caller ID should now show the hotline 800 number; if you save that in your phone contacts you’ll even know it’s us! We will call back a few times over the next two days, but if we can’t connect at this point, you’ll be asked to leave a new message to be sure the question is still active. We might also respond via email if the response is simple enough or if we are sending along some other resource, and will use hotline in the subject line when we do.

Information, not advice

Hotline attorneys will educate, inform and explain, but we can’t give specific advice on what to do in your particular transaction. For example, we can explain what the law and Agreement of Sale say about release of escrow, but we won’t give an opinion on which party should be entitled to the funds. Furthermore, we can’t draft language for you or your client, nor can we interpret the language that isn’t part of a PAR standard form.

For the love of all that is holy and dear to you, TALK TO YOUR BROKER OR MANAGER!

Sorry, too subtle?

Too many callers haven’t yet had a conversation in the office, and while “talk to your broker” is a part of many answers we know that at least some still don’t do it after they hang up.

Why does that matter? Three main reasons.

  1. Some questions could be answered quickly and easily in the office without playing phone tag with the hotline.
  2. Many responses are dependent on some sort of brokerage policy, so you’ll need that information for a complete answer.
  3. Risks – for you and the broker – go up when you act on your own. Acting outside of the broker’s allowable practices or advice not only increases the chances of some sort of a complaint, but also increases the chances that E&O coverage may not apply.

We look forward to continuing to maintain the excellent reputation the legal hotline has, serving your needs and continuing to be an asset to PAR’s membership. Thank you for your help making things run as efficiently as possible.


PAR Legal Hotline
Comments (24)


  • Kristine Maroney    August 7, 2019 | 7:19 am

    Great article and update on the PAR Legal Hotline. Thanks for keeping us informed of the changes. While most Realtors will call when in a jam, we likely forget to tell you guys how much we really appreciate what you do for us. Keep up the good work. No offense, but I hope I don’t need to call you anytime soon 🙂

    Reply to Kristine Maroney
  • Karen Basak Carey    August 7, 2019 | 7:30 am

    In my opinion, it seems like a waste of time to call, if you cannot give specific advice on what to do any particular transaction.

    Thank you for the updated information on contactIng the legal hotline.

    Reply to Karen Basak Carey
    • Hank Lerner, Esq.    August 7, 2019 | 10:53 am

      Thanks for the comment, Karen.

      Keep in mind that Hotline attorneys are spending just a few minutes on the call getting a description of one side of just one portion of a transaction that’s often far more complex. There’s no good way to offer a firm opinion under those conditions since there may be lots of important details we don’t have. And in fact we’ve had instances where both sides of a transaction call in and tell stories so different we could barely tell it was the same transaction. We could have easily given conflicting advice to each side based on their description, which then puts everyone in an even worse position.

      Reply to Hank Lerner, Esq.
  • Anne Rubin    August 7, 2019 | 8:10 am

    This is clearly a Hank Lerner piece. Best advice – talk to your broker or manager!!!

    Reply to Anne Rubin
  • Nancy Wright    August 7, 2019 | 8:33 am

    Good article and useful information for those who need advice. One small suggestion – you suggested that people save the number in their contact list. It would have been good information to supply in the article so that REALTOR® members could follow your suggestion.

    Reply to Nancy Wright
    • Kelly Leighton    August 7, 2019 | 9:01 am

      Hi Nancy,
      Since the legal hotline is a members-only benefit, we did not include it in the article, as then anyone would be able to access the number.

      Reply to Kelly Leighton
  • Suzanne Gruneberg    August 7, 2019 | 8:55 am

    Great article Hank including the “subtleties”! Always important to review the things PAR HOTLINE can and cannot do. The Hotline I believe is one of the best benefits of being a Realtor. Thank you for all your efforts!

    Reply to Suzanne Gruneberg
  • Arch Autenreith    August 7, 2019 | 9:11 am

    Thanks, Hank.

    Reply to Arch Autenreith
  • Lisa    August 7, 2019 | 10:11 am

    Love this!
    “Maintenance Staff” :-0) 🙂 🙂

    Reply to Lisa
  • Jodi Diego    August 7, 2019 | 12:18 pm

    Thank you for the article, very informative! Truly “Hank Style”!!

    Reply to Jodi Diego
  • Brian Kugler    August 7, 2019 | 12:20 pm

    Licensees, yes you. You are a licensee because you are not the BROKER. Hank Lerner suggested talking to your Broker, not to lessen the calls to the HOTLINE; but, because it’s the Broker who is responsible for your actions. Don’t like having to go to the Broker? Get several years experience so you get the points needed. Take the courses. Take the test. File your fictitious name with the State and open your own office.
    Just because you passed the licensee exam and got your business cards, you may be an independent licensee; but, it is not your company.

    Reply to Brian Kugler
  • Jane Maslowski    August 7, 2019 | 1:44 pm

    Great article–might want to email it directly to the brokers so they can pass it on to the agents. I am quite surprised how many agents do not subscribe to PAR Just Listed. You can lead a horse (oops, an agent) to water but you can’t make them drink it!

    Reply to Jane Maslowski
    • Hank Lerner, Esq.    August 9, 2019 | 9:36 am

      We’re obviously big fans of JustListed here at the Hotline, and regularly refer members to articles that cover their issues (as in: “The quick answer is ‘no’, but here’s an article to show your agents that explains why.”) Pretty sure we generate at least a few new signups each week.

      Even more exciting, though, is that we recently started sending a weekly digest of articles to all members who are not currently signed up for the daily JustListed email. It has been well received, and will ensure that every PAR member at least gets some exposure the articles.

      Reply to Hank Lerner, Esq.
  • Karlene Smith    August 7, 2019 | 1:56 pm

    Thank you Hank great article I will include it in our next company meeting as I know some do not take the time to read all the emails they get. The hotline has been very helpful over all these years. It will be very helpful for the 800 # to appear, I am sure you will get more answered calls that way.

    I am looking forward to the expanded hours as I often look at the clock and dare I am 5 minutes late!

    Reply to Karlene Smith
  • Christina Ross    August 7, 2019 | 3:16 pm

    Thank you Hank for outlining the parameters for this valuable tool and making agents aware also that this is a direct benefit of their Association and the Dues. I have used and will continue to use the Hotline alot and encourage agents to do so also…it is very valuable. Love your comments!

    Reply to Christina Ross
  • Delphine T.Clemens AB    August 8, 2019 | 2:32 am

    THANKS FOR BEING YOU. It’s comforting to know that we have this service. Delphine T. Clemens AB PGH PA

    Reply to Delphine T.Clemens AB
  • Toni Vandegrift    August 9, 2019 | 8:32 am

    My first experience reaching out to the legal hotline was last week and was a positive experience that I found it very helpful.
    The information I received helped clarify an area that I wasn’t sure on. I had already spoken with my broker but was encouraged to call the hotline as well. I think it’s a great service and I appreciate the help I received very much!

    Reply to Toni Vandegrift
  • Janice Robinson AB    August 9, 2019 | 8:33 am

    Great article Hank. I am always surprised, as a Broker, how often I hear “I called the hotline” after the issue happened, rather than speak with their Broker first, who in many cases could solve the issue before it becomes one!! Thank You for All you do.

    Reply to Janice Robinson AB
  • Joe MacConnell    August 9, 2019 | 8:37 am

    Have used the hotline numerous times a very valuable resource.

    Reply to Joe MacConnell
  • Tracy McDermott    August 12, 2019 | 4:45 am

    I love the line, “For all that’s Holy and you hold dearly…talk to your broker.”
    Thank you to the PAR hotline for many years of listening to me, calling back in a timely manner and providing incite to my profession …FOR FREE!

    Reply to Tracy McDermott
  • Tracy McDermott    August 12, 2019 | 4:46 am

    I love the line, “For all that’s Holy and you hold dearly…talk to your broker.”
    Thank you to the PAR hotline for many years of listening to me, calling back in a timely manner and providing incite to my profession …FOR FREE!

    Reply to Tracy McDermott
  • Erik Wagner    August 18, 2019 | 11:31 am

    Good reminder about talking to your broker first and the ramifications vis a vis E&O coverage. Thank you.
    I intend to disseminate that point in the office.

    Reply to Erik Wagner
  • Carol Shedlock    September 3, 2019 | 2:03 pm

    “Best call I ever make” So much great information for free. This is such a wonderful resource. Great advice “CALL YOUR BROKER FIRST”. Thank you.

    Reply to Carol Shedlock

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